Skip to content

Big Ten having preliminary conversations about more expansion if Pac-12 crumbles, AP sources say

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Tony Petitti speaks during an NCAA college football news conference at the Big Ten Conference media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Tony Petitti speaks during an NCAA college football news conference at the Big Ten Conference media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Wednesday, July 26, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

BY RALPH D. RUSSO contributing

A group of Big Ten presidents has begun discussing the possibility of adding more West Coast schools to the conference if the Pac-12 continues to crumble, two people familiar with the conversations told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the conversations were preliminary and the Big Ten was not going public with its internal deliberations.

Oregon and Washington would be the primary targets if the conference decided to make a move, one of the people said.

Yahoo Sports first reported the Big Ten was exploring the potential of adding more Pac-12 schools.

OTHER NEWS

FILE - Southern California players and coaches celebrate after defeating Stanford 31-28 in the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. Colorado becomes the third school to leave the Pac-12 in the last year, joining UCLA and USC, which are joining the Big Ten next year. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Column: A bold prognostication of what college football will look like a decade from now

FILE - The Pac-12 logo is shown at Sun Devil Stadium during the second half of an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Kent State in Tempe, Ariz., Aug. 29, 2019. Colorado is leaving the Pac-12 to return to the conference the Buffaloes jilted a dozen years ago, and the Big 12 celebrated the reunion with a two-word statement released through Commissioner Brett Yomark: “They’re back.” (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

Beleaguered Pac-12 says it will pursue expansion with Colorado, USC and UCLA all leaving next year

Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck speaks during an NCAA college football news conference at the Big Ten Conference media days at Lucas Oil Stadium, Thursday, July 27, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck defends program against allegations he calls ‘baseless’

The Pac-12 is down to nine schools seemingly committed beyond this year, with Southern California and UCLA heading to the Big Ten in 2024 to make it a 16-team, coast-to-coast conference. Colorado is leaving the Pac-12 for the Big 12 next year, too. Colorado announced its move last week.

The Pac-12 is hoping to keep its remaining members together with a media rights deal that would make Apple TV the conference’s primary home, ESPN reported Tuesday. The deal might not be enough to prevent more defections to the Big 12, with the remaining schools in the Four Corners region, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, the prime targets.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees both of the state’s Pac-12 schools, scheduled a meeting for Thursday evening. The meeting is set to almost immediately go into executive session with no public viewing.

On the agenda posted Wednesday night is listed is a “review of assignments for Arizona State University President Michael Crow and the University of Arizona President Robert Robbins,” and “possible legal advice and discussion regarding university athletics.”

USC’s and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten, announced in June 2022, were the first blows to send the Pac-12 reeling into uncertainty over the past year.

The Big Ten vetted Pac-12 members Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California while maneuvering to add the Los Angeles schools, another person who was involved in that process told the AP.

While former Commissioner Kevin Warren kept the idea of more Western expansion alive in the Big Ten, a change of leadership seemed to cool down a desire for more growth in the league.

New Commissioner Tony Petitti said during Big Ten football media days that expansion was not a priority.

“The Big Ten Conference is still focused on integration of USC and UCLA, but it’s also the commissioner’s job to keep chancellors and presidents informed about new developments as they occur,” the Big Ten said in a statement Wednesday.

The Big Ten has been reluctant to add more schools because they won’t increase the value of the seven-year, $7 billion media rights deals with Fox, CBS and NBC that begin this season.

Expansion into the Northwest could provide some increased value to the Big Ten Network, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

Annual payouts by the conference to Big Ten schools through the length of those deals are projected to reach over $60 million in just television revenue. Total conference payouts could reach $90 million per year.

By comparison, the Big 12’s recently agreed to extension with Fox and ESPN is projected to pay its members about $32 million annually.

Any additional Big Ten expansion could not come at the expense of current member payouts, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

“It would definitely be a considerable reduction from the current rate,” the person said.

But even a reduced payout from the Big Ten could top what the Pac-12 schools are likely to receive from their current conference under the Apple TV deal or what’s available in the Big 12.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com